Brief comment on being gone for 4 months. I studied for a licensing exam. I passed said exam.
After the tower mission described in the last post, my players' characters entered the Mournland. When I decided to run something in the Mournland, I decided not to adhere too closely to the source books. The very concept of the Mournland is like a GM-playground to me and I decided to keep it that way. I didn't want to read too much that might prevent me from enjoying the freedom of this broken place.
I started off by tossing a homemade "Wandering Hole" at the players. A single rope trick later and they were away from it. They peppered it with arrows and despite its DR10/slashing they killed it. Note to self: Never allow either Monkey Grip or Efficient Pull in a D&D campaign ever again.
They moved on to a particularly fiendish trap for the Mournland. It was a small bog of puddles that smelled strongly of almonds. The wizard tested the waters in the puddles with Spellcraft and found them to be healing potions. The wizard then dealt himself a single hit point wound and found that indeed the potion healed him. The players filled a host of empty vials with these potions and counted me a generous GM for providing them with, as they called it, "Healing that works in the Mournland". Now here is the trick. They do heal. . . sometimes. Every time a character uses one of these, I roll 2d6 with different colored dice. One is the healing die, the other the wound die. The healing die wins on a tie. They are going to be so pissed when they need that and it doesn't work. On they went with the new potions. They even used one in a later combat (it came up healing).
A little later a combat ensued between the players, a group of 20 Troglodytes , and one Troglodyte that had been transformed by the Mounrland. To create this transformation I used the Tauric template to create a half Troglodyte half Rhinocerous. I took a few liberties and gave the Troglycerous (or is it a Rhinolodyte?) spirited charge and a lance. Together with an opening round of trample that hit four out of five party members, this creature generated a lot of fear in a short period of time. Eventually, the players mopped up.
Thereafter, we had a bit of fun roleplaying their search of the location that had been the trog hang out. During the search they encountered another homemade creature. This one I left undeveloped to intentionally stretch my improvisation skills. On the premises occupied by the Trog band, there was a well. I knew that I wanted a creature in the well with tentacles and grapple checks. I had been thinking I'd use the fourth level Black Tentacles spell from the PHB but as I said, I intentionally hadn't looked it up until I was sitting at the table. When I looked it up it didin't have enough info. I turned to the Tendriculos but thought its CR was too high, plus the party had already faced one in the campaign and I didn't want the comparison to be too easy. I then flipped to the Dire Ape and found exactly what I was looking for. I decided that the creature in the well had four tentacles, could only use one per attack action and only two on a full attack. That made it pretty similar to the Dire Ape. Then I flung one tentacle out in the surprise round (the creature had to move up the well to get in range). That's when I also decided the creature had tremorsense. In the first round, the fighter managed to stave off being grappled by a second tentacle but then neglected to take a 5-foot step back out of reach so at the end of the round when the creature could attack again, out came two tentacles, both of which succeeded. Hey look, Dire Apes have rend. The fighter was not happy. As they were attacking the tentacles, I could see early that the Dire Ape's hit points would be insufficient. I decided to give the tentacles 20 hit points each (on a good hit, enough for the fighter to cut through in one blow). But that attacking a tentacle causes a maximum of 20 damage to the creature. As they cut the third tentacle in the second round, they were getting worried (not knowing there was only one left). I thought this was too much fun to simply end just as they are getting worried. So, I gave the creature regeneration/5. This allowed me to bring out tentacle #1 (severed in the first round) to terrorize again with tentacle #4. I did narrate to the players that, "This one doesn't look as thick as the others". Indeed, it had only 5 hit points. In round three, the rogue finally hit and rolled a crit threat. One player said, "don't even bother rolling the sneak damage." Then to me, "Its immune to crits right?" What else could I say, "Yes, yes it is". By round four, the players had cut all four tentacles and stepped out of the creature's reach. It went underground to heal.
I thought this would go no where until much later when they'd attack again from a position of strength. Then after about a half an hour of real time the fighter moved his lead casually back into range . He was livid (in a good way) when I told him to roll initiative.
Things I've learned from this session about running monsters:
1. If I create the monster I don't screw up its stats.
2. If I create a monster on the fly to increase dramatic tension it can work. Do this more often for small flavor combats.
3. It seems like a good idea to use a lower CR creature to improvise from because it gave me room to add abilities without overpowering the party.
4. I need to use something that can fly against this party.